Secondary scoring steps up

Newly created line of Ullstrom-Nielsen-Bailey seeing early returns on success

Wednesday, 03.7.2012 / 5:25 PM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Secondary scoring steps up
After the Islanders 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators Feb. 26, Jack Capuano was looking to create a spark on offense. His top line was well-represented on the score sheet, but to balance the attack and create a potent second line, Capuano needed to try something new.

The Bailey-Nielsen-Ullstrom line celebrates a goal.
David Ullstrom was called up from Bridgeport, Josh Bailey was moved from center to wing and both were chosen to flank the Isles number two centerman, Frans Nielsen. Four minutes into the line's debut Feb. 28 against Washington, Bailey found the back of the net off a dish from Nielsen.

“They are skill guys,” Capuano said. “Fransie’s got good vision, David’s got some good speed and deceptiveness to his game and they’ve complimented one another right now.”

If nothing else, having three defensively responsible forwards was sure to keep the puck out of the Islanders end. But in their first three games before Sunday’s 1-0 shutout win, the trio was firing offensively on all cylinders, combining for nine points, including four goals from Bailey.

“Josh on the wing has seemed to relax him a little bit more,” Capuano said. “Right now they are using their speed and getting pucks to the net. That’s how they are having success.”

Bailey and Ullstrom found chemistry early in the season during Ullstrom’s first call-up from Nov. 21 - Dec. 20. Bailey had six points (2g/4a) playing with Swedish winger, which accounted for nearly half his point total before his recent three-game streak. Having a skilled playmaker between them to distribute the puck increased the effectiveness of the duo.

“Fransie’s the key,” Bailey said. “His defensive ability matches his offensive ability. He’s so skilled with the puck and so good at making passes and setting up his linemates. I’ve been fortunate to receive a couple of those passes already and look forward to a couple more down the stretch.”

We can all play down low. I think we’ve been strong defensively and that means we have less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. That’s probably one of the reasons we’ve created a lot of scoring chances over these games." - Frans Nielsen
While the Islanders are looking for consistent offensive production, the trio subscribes to the notion that protecting your own end is equally as important and that defensive play can go a long way to creating offense. 

“I think we see the game pretty similarly,” Ullstrom said. “We are all offensive-minded, but we don’t mind taking a shift in our own end if necessary. When we get the chance to go, we go and attack them hard. If we lose the puck, we respond.”

Ullstrom played center in his native Sweden and Nielsen noted that with three centers playing on the same line, it doesn’t matter who gets back to the puck first.

“We can all play down low,” Nielsen said. “I think we’ve been strong defensively and that means we have less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. That’s probably one of the reasons we’ve created a lot of scoring chances over these games.”

The success of the line shuffling has impacted more than just the second line. Kyle Okposo and Casey Cizikas have found chemistry together, hooking up for the game-winner and only goal Sunday against New Jersey. In four games together, Okposo’s netted two goals and Cizikas was the one who fed him the puck both times.

The Islanders have taken five of a possible eight points in their last four games, including wins over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and division-rival New Jersey Devils. They’ve strung together back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 and it appears that after a few shuffles this season, Capuano finally likes the hands that he’s dealt.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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